Monday, 6 April 2015

Let's set up a refugee processing centre in Jakarta

I wanted to talk about this magazine cover in the context of the Reclaim Australia rallies held in Australia's capital cities over Easter, and also roping in the government's harsh treatment of refugees arriving in the country by boat. I don't mean that every family of refugees that comes here will have members who deserve to be pictured on the cover of this magazine. But the contributions made by refugees to Australia have always been considerable and mostly they have been positive. And even given the policy of multiculturalism, refugees - and migrants in general - tend to assimilate into the local culture. And if they do not do so their children will (because refugees like everyone tend to have children).

Having children brings me to another point, which is that without population growth tied largely to immigration Australia's economy would be like that of economic basket case Japan, where it is impossible for anyone to naturalise as a Japanese regardless of how long they have lived there. (There are families of Koreans who have lived in Japan for generations who are still treated legally as foreigners.) A far more rational and humane solution, for us, to stopping the boats would therefore be to establish a refugee processing centre in Jakarta where people arriving in Indonesia from other places with the intention to transit to Australia could be handled by Australian specialist staff so that the transition could be as painless and efficient as possible. Far better this than letting such people risk their lives on rickety boats they pay "people smugglers" to use.

We need refugees. We need immigrants. They lift demand for goods and services, stimulating the overall economy and boosting government revenues. On a personal level, furthermore, I am very positive about the contributions made by refugees because my paternal grandfather was an illegal immigrant from Africa, a place he left in 1924 prior to arriving by boat in Melbourne. He got off the boat and never got back on. He stayed, married a local girl and raised a family. He didn't naturalise until the 50s. His children got married and raised their own families. All of these people have contributed to Australia's economy, and all of them participate in its unique culture. We should be proud of refugees for making a rational choice by choosing Australia to live in, and in response we should make a rational choice and set up a refugee processing centre in Jakarta so that they can be introduced into Australia in the best way possible.

Getting back to the Reclaim Australian rallies, it seems to me that these people are exercising their democratic rights in order to voice their objection to extreme versions of Islam, rather than to immigrants from Islamic countries more generally. It is unfortunate that some people will make the mistake of thinking that their grievance is with Muslims in general. However, we have never seen rallies like this in Australia before and it appears to me that they are more specifically a response to extreme varieties of Islamic practice such as ISIS in the Middle East, Boko Haram in Nigeria and Shabab in Kenya.

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